Millions of Canadians consume alcohol and illegal drugs, including prescriptions. Sadly, only 2% of these people ever receive help for their substance use. It is not uncommon for individuals with addictions to refuse treatment. If your loved one is among them, you may wonder if an intervention can help. Do interventions work? If so, how do you plan an intervention to optimize success? Find out in this guide on how to do an intervention.
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What Is an Intervention?
An intervention is a planned meeting often hosted by the loved ones of someone with a substance abuse disorder. The intent is to help the person see that they have a problem and offer the support they need to begin their recovery journey.
The ultimate goal of an intervention is to get the person to seek help. Friends and family members should come prepared with available treatment options, such as an inpatient rehab program in Ontario.
Different Types of Interventions
The scenario described above is an intervention style known as the Johnson Model, where loved ones conduct the meeting. Although the Johnson model may be the most common, it is not the only type of intervention.
Family members may host other interventions but follow a different structure. Still others may involve interventionists or medical professionals. Common types of interventions in addition to the Johnson Model include:
- Crisis Interventions: held by law enforcement officers to offer resources to people with substance abuse or mental health disorders
- Brief Interventions: conducted by a mental health professional, school administrators, or doctors
- ARISE Interventions: similar to the Johnson Model but with a less confrontational nature
- SMART Interventions: structured based on SMART (Specific, measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-specific) goals
- Family Systemic Interventions: focused on encouraging the person with the SUD and their family members to seek help simultaneously
No one intervention style is necessarily better than another. Still, loved ones may benefit from seeking advice from a professional interventionist to determine the best fit for their unique situation.
The Intervention Process
Interventions are not easy for loved ones or the person receiving them. Planning can help the meeting go smoothly and increase the chances of getting someone with an SUD the help they need.
Learn how to do an intervention step by step next.
Steps Involved in Planning an Intervention
The first step is to choose the type. Family and friends should only host an intervention if they are certain they can follow through with the plan, even when the recipient responds negatively.
It’s okay if loved ones feel ill-prepared to stage an intervention. In that case, consider seeking help from a professional interventionist, mental health professional, medical expert, or social worker.
Once the intervention team is determined, choose the meeting’s date, time, and location. Each team member should educate themselves on substance use disorders and develop a treatment plan proposal.
Everyone should also write an impact statement. These statements should include honest testimony regarding how the person’s behaviour has impacted them while emphasizing support and empathy.
Team members should also write down how they intend to support the person while they recover. Additionally, include a contingency statement laying out the consequences should the person not seek treatment.
Before the intervention, gather the team for a rehearsal. Rehearsing what each loved one will say and when can reduce the risk of the meeting getting off track.
However, ensure everyone in the group understands that the intervention’s outcome may not be positive. Setting expectations will reinforce the importance of clear boundary setting if the person does not seek help.
Plan It Properly
Many people believe a one-on-one conversation with the person with the SUD will be enough. However, they may not underestimate the impact of addiction.
The same individuals may think that interventions can be spontaneous. They may think the person will want to change when presented with their loved ones’ impact statements. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Planning properly can increase the chances of success and get everyone on the same page. Aligning the intervention team’s expectations with reality is crucial.
Things to Avoid at an Intervention
The goal of an intervention is to get someone with an SUD to see the real impact of their substance use and seek treatment. To optimize the chances of success, loved ones should avoid:
- Using potentially harmful labels, such as ‘addict,’ ‘junkie,’ or ‘alcoholic.’
- Confronting the person when they are intoxicated
- Inviting too many people
- Using manipulative tactics, like coercion, shaming, anger, hurtful language, or ambushing
Finally, loved ones should come into the intervention with their personal feelings aside. Strong emotions, especially negative ones, can reduce the intervention’s effectiveness and potentially cause more harm than good.
How to Do an Intervention
It’s the day of the intervention. The following steps can help loved ones keep the meeting on track:
- Invite the person with the SUD to the intervention, but avoid telling them what the meeting regards
- Allow each team member to deliver their pre-prepared impact statement
- Explain the treatment plan and the consequences of not adhering to it
Looking for a Place to Start
One of the most glaring signs someone needs an intervention is if they have a severe addiction and know they have a problem but still won’t seek help.
It is not always easy to recognize the severity of a person’s SUD. The person may hide their substance use, and some symptoms could mimic mental health conditions like depression.
Some of the most obvious signs to watch for include shifts in routines or behaviours, consuming increasing amounts of a substance, extreme mood patterns, financial struggles, a slovenly appearance, and social isolation.
Consult with other family members and friends of the person with the SUD. If they have also noticed these signs, that is grounds for an intervention.
Involve an Intervention Professional
These professionals are individuals who specialize in planning and delivering interventions. Loved ones hire them for help with one or both aspects of an intervention, or they may request the specialist to hold it in their place.
Regardless of how the intervention professional gets involved, they can help ensure a successful meeting. During the planning stage, these specialists can set expectations, help with impact statements, and educate about SUDs.
Inviting an interventionist is like having a moderator for the discussion. The specialist will keep the meeting on track and help loved ones understand what to do if the meeting does not go as planned or is ineffective.
How to Find a Professional Interventionist
Many treatment centres have professional interventionists on staff. Contacting a program’s admissions staff can help loved ones understand their options.
Certified interventionists hold additional credentials as social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists. They have advanced education and experience in mental health and substance use disorders.
Choose Participants Wisely
One of the most important steps when learning how to have an intervention is to pick the right team. The team should consist of the people the individual with the SUD holds most dear.
It’s also crucial that these people be willing to uphold their boundaries should the intervention fail. Loved ones must follow through with the stated consequences.
Each group member must also have the time and desire to prepare for the intervention, including researching the person’s condition. People who want to blame or shame the recipient have no place in an intervention.
Have a Plan for What Comes Next
There are two ways to plan for what comes next after an intervention. The first is to have treatment options ready if the intervention is successful. The second is to know what’s needed should the person with the SUD refuse to get help.
Treatment options for people with SUDs include detox and inpatient or outpatient therapy. Inpatient programs are typically best for people with severe addictions, such as is often the case when an intervention is needed.
If the intervention is unsuccessful, team members should be prepared to enforce the boundaries they stated during the meeting. For example, family members may stop offering financial support if the person refuses help.
Provide Accountability and Support
Holding someone accountable is not just important if they refuse treatment. It’s also essential to ensure the person completes the program and recovers after rehab.
Remember that withdrawing emotional support may not be the best strategy when determining these consequences. Studies show that social support is a main factor influencing one’s recovery journey success.
They Are Responding Positively – Now What Do I Do?
If someone responds positively to an intervention, you gently present the most important point: that you want them to seek treatment. Loved ones must then get their consent to enroll in a treatment program.
Listening vs. Agreeing
Many people may listen to their loved ones’ points when confronted about their addiction. However, importantly, that does not necessarily mean the person is agreeing to get treatment.
The person may listen and respond patiently but then try to reason with their loved ones and themselves that their addiction is under control. At this point, listening to their perspective without agreeing is the best approach.
Don’t Allow Them to Coerce You
The goal of listening to the person’s perspective is to allow them to see the truth for themselves. If that does not happen, do not allow their rationalizing statements to throw the intervention off course.
Instead, reiterate the goal of the intervention and the consequences of not seeking treatment. If the person makes empty promises to go to rehab but doesn’t follow the boundaries set during the meeting.
The Intervention Went Horribly Wrong
Sadly, interventions can sometimes result in disaster. An expert interventionist can help recognize the right time to involve emergency responders if necessary.
For example, say the person gets angry and becomes violent after their loved ones explain the consequences of not getting treatment. In that case, calling 911 may be required to prevent the person from harming themself or others.
If the intervention goes wrong, loved ones must still follow through with the consequences they set out. Following through may finally push the person to seek help.
Following Up After the Intervention
After a successful intervention, loved ones should provide continued support throughout treatment. They should also prepare for relapse after rehab. Then, they must devise a new plan to get the person back into treatment.
If the person refused treatment during the intervention, loved ones should follow through with the stated consequences and continue encouraging them to seek help.
The Success of Interventions
It’s hard to determine the exact success rate of interventions due, in part, to differing definitions of ‘success.’ Some define success as convincing the person to enroll in treatment. Others define it as avoiding relapse after rehab.
Research shows up to 90% of Johnson Model-style, professional-assisted interventions successfully get individuals into rehab. The success rate of family interventions without professional assistance is less clear.
When defining success in the second way, one can look to the TV show Intervention. Throughout its 16-year run time, 71% of show participants avoided relapse following a 90-day inpatient rehab program.
Tips for a Successful Intervention
Here is a quick summary of our tips in this guide. When planning an intervention:
- Consider working with a professional interventionist
- Keep the meeting on track and on subject
- Avoid using shame, blame, or potentially harmful labels
- Present the treatment plan with the consequences of not following it
- Always follow through on consequences
Supporting someone at the beginning of their recovery journey can make all the difference. Keep this guide handy to help plan a successful healing intervention for your loved one.
Make Simcoe Part of Your Treatment Plan
To do an intervention: plan ahead, consult a professional interventionist, and choose the right intervention team for the best results.
Do you need help staging an intervention or understanding treatment options? Simcoe Addiction and Mental Health offers intervention services and treatment programs for people with SUDs.
Browse our website to learn more about our program and the addictions we treat. Or contact Simcoe now to learn about our admissions process.